Daily B: Will.I.Am Isn’t Totally The Worst, And Here’s Why

by Bradley Stern


Okay, real talk.

When news broke earlier this week that will.i.am really, really is coming on board as the executive producer of Britney‘s 8th studio album (working title: Blackout 2.0: It Gets Urbaner), the reality of the situation left most, if not all of us, steaming like a pot full of vegetables.

I, for one, was furious: After all, I’ve referred to him as a musical terrorist for the greater half of the past decade. He’s cocky, his name is annoying, he’s got a stupid haircut and he’s responsible for megatons of club-pop drivel: “Boom Boom Pow,” “Check It Out,” “Imma Be,” “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)”—and worst of all, THIS. Plus, we all know “Scream & Shout” is only tolerable because of Britishney, bitch.

But upon further consideration and extensive prayer and meditation, I’ve come to realize that will.i.am isn’t always the will.i.worst. (Just, y’know, usually.)

As the executive producer of Britney’s album, will.i.am doesn’t necessarily have to touch all, or even any, of the songs. His responsibility is to curate the overall record. Beyond that, he’s already promised to meet with Britney and create something “personal” and “intimate,” rather than a mere collection of slay-ready dance floor cuts. He seems genuine in his intention to represent Brit Brit’s life in a meaningful way through her musical output—and that’s something to support, not shade. (I don’t know about you, but I sure want a Spearitual Ray of Light!)

Yes, he’s spent the last few years of his career servicing hashtag-friendly, Auto-Tune-heavy robo-bangers for the masses, but he’s contributed some pretty major tunes to the pop universe too.

So instead of waking up in a cold sweat screaming (and shouting) from night terrors of Britney singing the sequel to “My Humps,” let’s just remain Optimisticney and consider all the good stuff. (And please Godney, let there be no hashtags.)


Smash City

First off, consider the fact that will.i.am produced The Pussycat Dolls“Beep,” Usher‘s “OMG,” Rihanna‘s “Photographs,” and Estelle‘s “American Boy”—all of which are great.

He also provided us with Nicole Scherzinger‘s iconic Her Name Is Nicole (pre-order on Amazon!) gem, “Baby Love.”

Baby, Can You Play With Fire?

Did you know? will.i.am was a co-writer on Hilary Duff‘s flaw-free Dignity standout, “Play With Fire.” No, he didn’t produce the track—but he had a hand in it, at least—much like he will on Britney’s album. The Kylie-lite kiss-off flaunts Hilary at her sassiest yet, and represented the best of what Le Duff could offer as a post-Disney electro-pop princess.

T to the A, to the S T Y

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a former Wild Orchid member named Stacy Ann Ferguson fronted a hip-hop-turned-club-pop troupe called the Black Eyed Peas. And in 2006, the songstress briefly went solo with a record called The Dutchess, a jubilant, genre-bending collection of horn-heavy ‘urban’ jams (“London Bridge”), massive, if not overwrought pop balladry (“Big Girls Don’t Cry”) and slick grooves promoting both lavishness and literacy (“Glamorous”).

Will was the executive producer of The Dutchess, and he had a heavy hand in crafting almost all the songs: He produced “Fergalicious,” “Clumsy,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Mary Jane Shoes” himself, among others. Seven years later, the album still plays like a fun, fresh collection of non-trend hopping pop that hasn’t aged in the slightest.

Speaking Of, The Black Eyed Peas Weren’t Always Terrible

The Black Eyed Peas aren’t completely mindless club fodder and bar mitzvah-ready bangers (or weren’t, anyway): At the turn of the millenium, the troupe first broke out as an innovative, groundbreaking hip-hop trio, collaborating with acts like Mos Def, Wyclef Jean and Esthero on 1998’s Behind the Front and 2000’s Bridging The Gap.

The addition of Fergie eventually led to the insipid club-pop cuts, but there were still plenty of gems scattered over the past decade: 2003’s Elephunk brought us snappy earworms like “Shut Up” and “Hey Mama,” as well as the Grammy-nominated “Where Is The Love?” (“Let’s Get Retarded” is fun, but that ignorant line has always made the song hateful.) 2005’s Monkey Business brought “Pump It,” the phunky phreshness of “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” and “Don’t Lie,” while 2009’s The E.N.D. gave us the perfectly danceable “Rock That Body” and “Meet Me Halfway,” a dreamy disco meditation that, apart from will.i.am’s irritating verses, would sparkle sweetly with Britney’s heavenly coos on top.

It Was Those 3 Words…

Cheryl Cole & will.i.am: Two black eyed peas in a pod. Ever since their first collaboration on Will’s Songs About Girls with the above-average “Heartbreaker” (remember how she learned how to be a ‘street dancer’ for “Heartbreaker” in Passions of Girls Aloud?), will.i.am and the former Girls Aloud songstress (frowny face) have collaborated constantly, churning out semi-amazing, semi-shit tunes for 5 years running.


Will was the executive producer of Chezza’s 2009 debut, 3 Words, popping up on the gorgeous, deeply underrated “3 Words” and “Heaven” (as well as the mostly dreadful, Fleetwood Mac-sampling “Boy Like You.”) He returned for 2010’s post-malaria sophomore stinker Messy Little Raindrops on “Live Tonight” and “Let’s Get Down.” Most recently, the duo teamed up yet again for “Craziest Things” on Cheryl’s third studio album, 2012’s A Million Lights.

Together they’re a very mixed bag, but there’s no way Cheryl’s solo career would thrive the way it has without will.i.am.

Welcome To The 22nd Century

It’s the strongest supporting argument, by far: will.i.am was the executive producer of Kelis’ almighty Flesh Tone—the greatest album of 2010 (along with Robyn‘s Body Talk and Kylie‘s Aphrodite), and one of the most forward-thinking blends of raw emotion, endlessly catchy melodies and pummeling electronic beats of the past decade.

When it was announced that Kelis was going to release Flesh Tone under will.i.am’s label, there was plenty of doubt then too, but Kelis was confident: “He’s like a musical encyclopedia…It makes it fun. He’s not afraid to push the limits and kinda go further than everyone else and that’s exciting. He still seems to be having fun doing it and that’s what it’s all about,” she told Rap-Up in December of 2009.

Will is only credited on one song on the entire record: He co-wrote “Brave”, the final, anthemic battle cry on the record—and arguably the best song of the bunch.

If his intention really is to draw out a personal narrative from Britney as he did with Kelis, Britney’s 8th studio album may very well become a sonic revelation a la Flesh Tone, blending 22nd century production with lyricism that cuts surprisingly deep—and that would be a very, very good thing.


  • snon

    I agree and have always felt this way. I never had a problem with him because as you mentioned. His stuff before the dance/EDM craze was actually really good. And we know they are staying away from that. Plus she seems to love him and he seems to inspire her and actually is working with her(unlike that Dr.Luke who treated her 7th album like his own personal project to promote his team of writers and producers.)

  • http://twitter.com/teblue Teo

    You sure thought about this one.

  • http://confessionsofaboytoy.wordpress.com/ Oscar Raymundo

    Good point. There were similar concerns when Dr. Luke was announced as executive producer of Femme Fatale, assuming he was going to stuff the album with TIkTok rehashes, which was not at all the case.

    Other comments:
    1. Why did Hilary Duff stop making music after Dignity? The whole album is flawless as far as I’m concerned.
    2. The Meet Me Halfway video is basically a Britney-less Fantasy fragrance commercial.

  • Lance

    Flesh Tone is Godly. Perfect direction for Godney.

  • dominic halsey

    Great Article i’m excited for the highly anticipated still unnamed album for Godney i don’t have a problem will will.i.am as the executive producer

  • http://twitter.com/dosomethin2nite dosomethin2nite

    Glad to see you’ve changed ur tune Bradley! I think we should give him a chance & hold off any judgement until we hear the actual music. Unlike Dr.Luke, Will is actually taking the time to get to know her as a person & he has my respect after admitting that they are not interested in making another Scream & Shout. I like that he’s taking a more personal direction with this album. We havent gotten a deeply personal album from Britney since Blackout & I think will.i.am just might be the person to give us what we’ve been begging for. Willpower aside, he had some great moments with the BEP & as u said, as EP he’s not actually PRODUCING the songs, just overseeing the entire project & making sure that this time around its not *insert producer’s name* featuring Britney but Britney “this is my effing album & this is my story” Spears. I for one am happy that someone like Dr.Luke isn’t involved this time around because he gave Britney a generic album, basically promoted himself, made the album feel bland & Britney-less & most importantly took no particular interest in hearing out or even involving Britney in what was supposed to be her record. And let’s not forget, Britney actually feels comfortable with Will. The only way u can get deep & personal when working with someone on a project is if u feel comfortable around them & actually give a shit to get to know them instead of…here’s a beat, sing this dumb lyric, I’ll put my name & copy & paste this shit together, peace out! Yay for Will! Thank you for caring about our girl instead of looking at her as a cash cow & a stepping stone in promoting ur own stuff.

  • Manuel

    I think you realized all your hysteria towards Will,I,am was exaggerated and biased. If you want to write objective opinions, you need to mature your own passions, AND I LOVE BRITNEY, but I am aware of here serious limitations. She will do great with WIll.I.am advice.

  • Josh Diaz

    Amazing article. I love all the investigation you did. I’m just a little worried about will.i.am’s issue with copyrights.

  • Matt 25

    I love what he produced with Miley C.-not her fan, but… this one song “Fall Down” is like girl version of The 20/20 Experience album! The ending is like, OMG! JT is it you?

    I’m VERY happy that Will will take care of album 8 :) He said what we all want say to Larry & Adam- plz more good personal songs! Not good hit smash tunes! Which are great, but Britney neeeeed Ray Of Light…

    Spears, we are waiting… Will, work it!

  • Austin Pence


  • Grey

    I literally had no idea he had a hand in most of those flawfree hits! Consider me very excitedney for album 8!